100 steps from treatment
EDWARDS – Comfort can’t get much closer.When it’s finished in a about a year, a new “Caring House” at the Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards will put about 100 steps between what can be grueling treatment and a place to rest.Katha Jenkins lives in Summit County. Last year, she came to the Edwards center for treatment instead of going to Denver. Even that short trip can be a mental and physical grind, she said.”It’s hard to describe how treatment devastates your body,” Jenkins said. “You can’t even think right. Sometimes my chemotherapy wouldn’t finish until 6 or 7 p.m. I’d feel lousy and then have to get back over the pass.”Jenkins’ travel story is more the rule than the exception at the Shaw Center. About 75 percent of all the center’s patients come from outside Eagle County, from as far away as Parachute (75 miles) and Craig (175 miles).
For some of those patients, cancer treatment is a lot like a job. Some radiation treatments go on five days a week, for several weeks. When the caring house is finished, patients will be able to stay in Edwards while they’re getting treatment. Gary Lebo knows how important a place to stay can be. His wife, MaryAnn, went to Grand Junction for her cancer treatment. While there, she was able to stay at a place St. Mary’s Hospital has for its patients.”This is going to be wonderful here,” Lebo said. “When you’re having treatment, you can become violently ill. Not having to travel is a relief.”Not having to travel is about more than comfort. It can actually help patients heal.”We’re solving a complicated health problem,” said Dr. Patti Hardenbergh, the director of radiation treatment at the Shaw Center. “This simplifies the equation.”Hardenbergh came to Edwards from Duke University in North Carolina when the Shaw Center opened. The cancer center she came from has a caring house, and Hardenbergh started work right away to get one built at the Shaw Center. But it took a rancher from Craig to really get the idea to gel.Exhausted from his treatment, the rancher wound up sleeping in his car at the center. That’s when a group of volunteers called the Shaw Cancer Center Outreach Team found its calling.
“We thought we might buy some equipment or furniture,” said volunteer Cheryl Jensen. “But we did this.”By the time the caring house opens, it will have been nearly five years from the time the campaign to build it began. But at least a few of the patients getting treatment now have a place to stay.Volunteer Suzy Donohue found a place for the rancher from Craig. And over the past few years, Vail Resorts has kept four of its employee housing units open for Shaw Center patients.”That’s been a great Band-Aid for us,” Jensen said.At first, the volunteer group expected to built an eight-bedroom center that could be added onto quickly. But the Shaw Center got busier faster than anyone planned, so the volunteers decided to build out to 12 rooms right away.The former and current patients who came to Wednesday’s ground-breaking said the people who stay at the caring house will be fortunate, indeed. All the patients at the ground-breaking gave the center rave reviews.”With the caring house, I don’t know how it can get any better,” Jo Brown of Edwards said.
“If you have to have cancer, this is the place to go,” Jenkins said. Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado